Cllr Anne Campbell: Tenants Waiting For Maintenance

Serious delays to maintenance and repair works on houses owned by Louth County Council is causing worry and stress for tenants, according to a Dundalk councillor.

Sinn Fein’s Anne Campbell says “there has been a massive slow-down in getting maintenance and repairs completed with council officials saying that all works are subject to the maintenance budget in the second half of the year.”

Cllr Campbell raised the issue at the last meeting of Louth County Council. “According to the figures,  maintenance requests have increased by 20% in two years, I also noted that work had been approved at tenants’ homes, but had not been done because of cost. I asked director of housing, Joe McGuinness, if there was a problem with money.”

In response, Mr McGuinness said: ‘There are issues with a significant number of housing maintenance requests and there are budgetary pressures. They are being prioritised and some will be done’.

Cllr. Campbell said: “I have noticed that the delays between maintenance or repair requests going in and the work getting done have been getting longer and longer since June. I have sought updates on behalf of a number of constituents and have been told that there are ‘budgetary pressures’ and each job is subject to the funding being available for it.”

“There are people who have come to me who have been waiting for months to get relatively small, but important, work done to their council houses and it’s just not happening. Indeed, there is currently no indication, in many of these cases, when the work may be carried out.”

Cllr Campbell pointed out that “Louth County Council has a responsibility to its tenants in the same way a private landlord has certain obligations to his/her tenants, including repairing and maintaining the structure of the property and maintaining the interior of the property to the standard it was at the start of the tenancy. We would not accept ‘budgetary pressures’ from a private landlord and we should not accept this reason from local authorities either.”

“This is causing a lot of stress and worry for people who are waiting to get work completed.”

Cllr Pearse McGeough Urges Private Landlords to Be Responsible/Aware following Grenfell Tower Fire

At September’s Louth County Council Meeting, Sinn Féin Councillor Pearse McGeough welcomed the inspection of multi-storey buildings by the Fire and Emergency Services. Buildings of seven storeys and over have been inspected following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in London with additional fire safety assessments requested of external wall cladding.

Cllr McGeough said “the Fire Prevention section has also requested fire safety assessments of all two storey properties owned by Housing Agencies where council tenants are accommodated and I welcome that. The Fire Prevention Section has also contacted management companies or owners of all buildings in Louth where Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) tenants are living.”

Cllr McGeough raised the issue of private tenants and private landlords. “I asked if their properties were being inspected but was told that is the responsibility of the landlords themselves. I would now urge all landlords to check their properties periodically and ensure there are fire safety precautions in place. With an average of 60-70 house fires a year we need to be doing everything we can to avoid tragedies.”

Pearse McGeough went on to explain that “there are basic things you can ensure the property has: Smoke detectors, heat detectors and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors. The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 requires every house to have a fire blanket and a mains wired smoke alarm or two 10 year self-contained battery operated alarms. These are a few basics that can be done but could be enough to save a life or prevent extensive damage to a property.”

Munster – Louth Housing List Longer Due To Chronic Shortage

Imelda Photo WhiteSinn Féin Councillor Imelda Munster has warned that “the lack of delivery of social housing coupled with the chronic shortage of private rented accommodation in Drogheda and throughout Louth are compounding the housing crisis in the county and will without doubt, lead to more and more people presenting themselves as homeless.”

Cllr Munster, who will be running for Sinn Féin in the upcoming general election stated “we now have the highest number ever on the housing waiting list with 1,907 applicants in Drogheda and 4,764 applicants overall in Louth with many waiting over 8 years to be housed”.

The Drogheda Councillor hit out at the government’s HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) scheme which promised to address the crisis when it was introduced. “The current government policy is to force people in to private rented accommodation ignoring the fact that there is a chronic shortage of private rental property locally. Under this HAP scheme, people on the housing waiting list are being transferred over to HAP and into private rented accommodation and then the government deem their housing need to have been met.”

So what does that mean for families? Cllr Munster explained “families or individuals will forever be living in private rented houses at the mercy of private landlords and the taxpayer paying eternally with no return for their money. Some landlords are taking advantage of the shortage by increasing rents, some by as much as several hundred euros a month, forcing people who simply cannot afford the huge increases out on to the streets.”

In the last few weeks, twenty people presented themselves as homeless to Louth County Council, fifteen of who were there for financial reasons. “there are home re-possessions and increases in private rents. The tenants are forced out of their home and because of the chronic shortage of private rented property, they find themselves with nowhere to go”.

Cllr Munster concluded by saying “When are the government going to see that this policy is not working and indeed compounding the housing crisis? It cannot be resolved until they roll out a direct social housing building programme, introduce rent controls which would help stem the rising tide of homelessness, and amend the Land Conveyancing Act to give greater protection to the family home”.